Whether you’re after extraordinary nature, rich history and culture or amazing food and wine, South Africa has got it all. From hiking mountains and spotting wildlife to kicking back with a glass of wine, we take a look at all the very best South Africa bucket list experiences to do on your next trip.
1. See the iconic Big Five
Spotting the Big Five is a bucket list moment for any trip to South Africa. But did you know you have a real chance of spotting all five superstars in a single trip to Kruger National Park?
The park is teeming with incredible wildlife, including lions, leopards, elephants, rhino and buffalo, plus hundreds more! We’ll take you on an unforgettable safari game drive at sunrise and dusk for the very best chance of spotting the Big Five, the adorable Little 5, and everything in between.
2. Head to the top of Table Mountain
With its iconic flat top, incredible views and thrilling cableway, Table Mountain is a must-do South Africa bucket list experience. We’ll take you on the aerial cableway to the rocky flat top dotted with Cape fynbos and curious hyraxes, and you’ll marvel at the spectacular views over Cape Town, including the famous City Bowl.
We’ll also give you the option to go on a guided sunset hike up Lions Head. It’s a challenging climb, but you’ll be rewarded with some of the city’s most stunning views.
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3. Taste world-class wines in the Cape Winelands
Whether you’re a wine connoisseur or simply a lover of all things beautiful, you can’t miss exploring the Cape Winelands. Famed as one of the world’s most beautiful wine valleys, the region is filled with stunning scenery, rich history and of course, plenty of wine.
We’ll explore it all, including the gorgeous French-inspired town of Franschhoek and the picturesque wine estates of Stellenbosch, with wine cellar tours and tastings every step of the way. We’ll even take you driving along the thrilling Helshoogte Mountain Pass!
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4. Discover the legacy of Nelson Mandela
Nelson Mandela was an anti-apartheid revolutionary and the first black President of South Africa. You can’t visit this country without learning his incredible story.
We’ll take you to some of the key historical sites, including Nelson Mandela’s birthplace in Qunu and his former house in Soweto in Johannesburg, and Robben Island, where Mandela spent 18 years of his 27-year prison term. Here, you’ll take a guided tour with a former political prisoner who will share the 500-year-old history of Robben Island. Explore moving exhibits, see Mandela’s cell and walk through the Maximum Security Prison that held thousands of South Africa’s freedom fighters.
5. Meet adorable African penguins
If you’ve ever wanted to meet an African penguin, Cape Town is the place to do it! We’ll take you on a scenic tour along the Cape Peninsula, one of the world’s most spectacular coastal roads. You won’t want to blink as we journey along the Atlantic Ocean, lined with the rugged 12 Apostles, the Cape of Good Hope, and stunning beaches.
We’ll make a stop at Boulders Beach, where you can see a colony of penguins that often wander onto the sand and aren’t shy with people. While you should never touch or approach them, you’re sure to get some fantastic photos of these curious creatures from afar. We’ll also visit Betty’s Bay, to meet one of the world’s largest successful breeding colonies of African penguins.
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6. Have an exhilarating 4×4 adventure
If the Sani Pass isn’t on your South Africa bucket list, it should be! It’s one of the world’s most iconic mountain passes, located between KwaZulu-Natal and Lesotho. It’s famed for its breathtaking views and spine-tingling gravel route that summits at a staggering 2,876 metres.
We’ll take you on a thrilling 4×4 drive along the Sani Pass, climbing all the way to the top where you’ll get to stop at scenic viewpoints. You’ll get to enjoy lunch at Africa’s highest pub, and even cross international borders into Lesotho to reach the Sani Pass summit.
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7. Learn about the local cultures of South Africa
Famously known as the ‘rainbow nation’, South Africa is made up of dozens of diverse cultures. There’s Zulu, Xhosa, Pedi, Tswana, Shangaan, Hindu and Afrikaner communities – and that’s just to name a few! There are also at least 35 indigenous languages spoken in South Africa, and they even have 11 official languages. The most commonly spoken are Zulu, Xhosa and Afrikaans.
We’ll give you a fascinating insight into some of these amazing cultures, with experiences like visiting a local Shangaan village in the South African bushveld. You’ll learn all about the customs of the Shangaan people and sample a traditional meal of pap, grilled chicken, Shangaan-style cabbage and even Mopani worms.
You’ll also have the chance to learn more about Xhosa culture in Knysna when we take you to meet your host, Ella. She’ll teach you how to say a few Xhosa phrases and share her life story and insights into Xhosa culture. She’ll even reveal the meaning behind the local songs that you’ll listen to as you enjoy a traditional Xhosa meal.
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8. Explore the mighty Drakensberg
The magical Drakensberg Mountains are one of the greatest South Africa attractions, and you can’t miss seeing this gorgeous region. It’s the largest mountain range in South Africa, and you’ll quickly understand why it inspired J.R.R. Tolkien’s Misty Mountains in Middle Earth. We’ll take you on an amazing journey here, through scenic valleys, rugged escarpments, and mountain streams.
9. Marvel at migrating whales
Every year from July to December, you can spot Southern Right whales migrating through the South African waters. The coastal town of Hermanus near Cape Town is one of the best places in the world to set eyes on these majestic whales, and we’ll take you there on our South Africa travel adventures. Setting eyes on these gentle giants is sure to be one of the most memorable moments of your life.
10. Admire the incredible sights of Mpumalanga’s Panorama Route
Mpumalanga’s Panorama Route is absolutely packed with extraordinary wonders, and we’ll take you to see them all. Marvel at the lush Blyde River Canyon, the third-largest canyon on earth and snap some gorgeous photos at God’s Window. Then check out the curious Bourke’s Luck Potholes, a stunning geological wonder lined with walkways and bridges so you can get up close to nature.
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11. Discover a real Garden of Eden at Knysna
Locals call it the Garden of Eden, and you’ll understand why once you set eyes on the Knysna landscapes. There are so many different ways to explore Knysna, and we’ll give you the option to cruise, walk or drive around this natural paradise.
You could head to Featherbed Nature Reserve for a drive to the top of the lagoon’s Western Head, or take a guided walk through the indigenous forests of Wilderness. Here you’ll take a magical 2.6-kilometre stroll, crossing mossy bridges, tinkling streams, and giant old trees, including the ancient Outeniqua Yellowwood tree.
Why not end the day with a sunset dinner cruise on Knysna Lagoon itself. You’ll board a paddle cruiser at sunset and sail to the famous Knysna Heads while tucking into a Mediterranean buffet. Blissful!
What are the top things to see on your South Africa bucket list? Let us know in the comments below!